Level Up: 7 Hong Kong-set videogames where you can beat up triads, be a cat, and build an MTR system

It’s all very nice to live in this glittering metropolis, but sometimes you just want to tear things up, cause chaos, take down gangsters and fight shadowy corporations… all without a visit from the police, naturally. Enter Hong Kong video games. Behold, the top seven video games set in our very own Fragrant Harbour.

Sleeping Dogs (2012)
Available on: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360

Originally developed as part of the “True Crime” games, Sleeping Dogs was a bit of a departure for the series, instead feeling more like an 80s cop movie. You play an all-American cop (of Chinese descent) transferred to the Hong Kong Police Force when, lo and behold, you are asked by your definitely not suspicious boss to infiltrate the triads. What could go wrong?

This game features a classic mix of shooting, driving, exploration and some top notch martial arts. The plot is full of twists and turns, making you do everything from driving a bride to her wedding day, beating up well dressed thugs (bankers) in Central to shootouts with rogue cops and racing around the Peak.

A movie adaptation starring Donnie Yen has also just been announced, giving non-players a chance to see what it’s all about.

Hong Kong rating: 

Sleeping Dogs has done its job well, presenting a slightly satirical take on the city which comprises North Point, Aberdeen, Central and the Peak all complete with buses, trams, tourists and gun-toting mobsters. The only part that requires a suspension of disbelief is that your character can afford an apartment in Central.

 

Stranglehold (2007)
Available on: PC, PS3, Xbox 360


Screenshot: Stranglehold

A classic from the PS3 era, starring none other than Chow Yun-fat himself as Detective Tequila in a direct sequel to one of the best Hong Kong action movies of all time: Hard Boiled. Not that you’ll notice the plot in the midst of some classic John Woo chaos as you take down waves of goons with slow-mo dives, powerups and white doves. Despite only having a 6 hour single player story you’ll be exhausted by the end of it, but also probably confused by the plot.

Hong Kong rating:

 

Jet Li: Rise to Honor (2004)
Available on: PS2

Seems to be a lot of indoors action here, and the game later switches locations to the USA, but John Woo and Chow Yun Fat bring some pure Hong Kong magic in spirit.


Photo: The Isozone

Another Hong Kong-set fighting game, featuring a Hong Kong martial artist. I’m sensing a theme here. This time, as always, you get to beat up gangsters in a grimy 90s-looking Hong Kong. The tale is as clichéd as it is convoluted: you (Jet Li) are a cop, triads are involved, some double crossing happens, then you go to San Francisco and back to Hong Kong for some reason. Expect a lot of senseless beating and almost as many nods to Jet Li’s movies hidden throughout. The whole thing is presented as a movie with DVD-style chapter titles and no loading screens, which was a novel idea in 2004.

Hong Kong rating: 

Beating people up in Kowloon… hmm, sounds like shopping in Mong Kok on a Sunday. Unfortunately the PS2 is limited in showing the splendor of the city, so the action is mostly kept indoors or on generic sections of roadway.

Shadowrun Hong Kong (2015)
Available on: PC

Photo: Game Pressure

This is probably one of the more interesting games on the list, as it excitingly promises to combine tech and magic in a future Hong Kong. Shadowrun spins out a classic cyberpunk tale of corporations and shadowy governments and hacking, lots of hacking. Play the role in this stylish and well produced RPG (role-playing game) by creating your own character from scratch and watch them develop from well-meaning tourist to cyberpunk god. Be prepared to invest a lot of time for a significant payoff, that’s not even mentioning the expansion pack.

Expect sharp and clean turn based combat, taking the time to plan your attack and execute it with magic and tech. So pack your lace-up boots, umbrella and indoor sunglasses, it’s going to be, rain, neon and conspiracies aplenty.

Hong Kong rating: 

One of the most expressive visions of a future Hong Kong. Unsurprisingly for the city that inspired ‘Ghost in the Shell’ its pure Blade Runner-esque cyberpunk dystopia at its finest. Kind of reminds me of Lan Kwai Fong on a Friday, so pretty realistic there.

Mini-Metro (2016)
Available on: iOS, Android 

Photo: HKABC

Mini-Metro is a fun game out on Android or iOS, which tasks you to built and run an underground rail network in various cities around the world. This is all done on a minimalist background reminiscent of an MTR map, upon which you have to connect stations and ferry shapes representing passengers to and fro. The challenge comes when you have to integrate new stations into your already busy network and risk overcrowding and losing the game.

Hong Kong rating: 

Admittedly, Hong Kong is only one of many cities that you can play with on this game, but it is also amongst the most challenging due to having to manage a large (and growing population) and a limited amount of underwater tunnels. Having stations become overcrowded loses you the game, which makes us question if its creators have ever been to Admiralty at rush hour, or just generally.

 

Kowloon cat game, a.k.a. “Hong Kong Project” (TBA)

Although not formally out yet, this reimagining of the Kowloon Walled City is dripping with cool and regularly gets featured in some viral video or another from time to time. Explore the locale as a cat slinking through grates and pipes encountering robot people who seem to live there. No solid release date yet as, to quote their blog, the project is manned by “two people and two cats” but here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.

Hong Kong rating: a tentative 

From what I’ve seen, it looks uncannily like some dodgy alleys in Yau Ma Tei so thumbs up for realism.

Hong Kong 97 (1995)
Available on: 
SNES


Photo: Hardcore Gaming 101

This is a strange, strange game. So strange in fact that it has been branded kusoge in Japan, (literally, so bad it’s good.) You star as “Chin” (Jacky Chan) and are apparently asked by then-governor Chris Patten to stop the ‘mainland invasion’ – aside from how controversial that topic is alone (considering it was 1995), the game itself was terrible. You fight poorly rendered police, random people, cars, and finally the bomb-spewing head of Deng Xiaoping, and if you win? You go straight back to the start. Yup, that’s the whole game. Oh, and you die instantly if anything hits you.

Hong Kong rating:  / 

This retro game is oddly subversive in the current political climate. Maybe it’s the most Hong Kong of them all?

    Philip is a Hong Kong based writer and photographer with a fondness for science fiction, gaming, travel and food. His favorite thing about Hong Kong is how easy it is to escape the city and hit a sweet beach or hiking trail.

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